Fifteenth Sunday after
Pentecost—13 September AD 2009
On Envy, Pride, et al.
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Sermon on Modernism (AD 2007)
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit... not provoking one another, envying one another.”
In St. Paul's epistle this morning, he
alludes to the need for exercising our Faith in a practical manner. It is
not enough to believe the articles of the Faith as they are proposed to us by
the Church. We must also conduct our life in a Christian manner.
Certainly, we must “believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the
forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,” and so on, but there is
more to it than this. There is also a down-to-earth set of behaviors which
is part of being a Catholic.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on
the keeping of the Commandments. They reflect God's natural law, and point
out the way in which we must conduct ourselves if we are to do our earthly duty
to God, to our fellow man, and to ourselves.
But even the Commandments are not the
end of it; but merely a beginning. We keep hearing our Lord tell us that
we must have positive virtues. It is not enough to simply keep the
Commandments in the negative sense of “staying out of trouble.” Fairly
often in the New Testament, our Lord exhorts is to acts of charity toward the
needy—to visit the sick, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, and so on.
But, perhaps even more fundamental, is
the attitude which St. Paul describes this morning. And “attitude” may
be the best word to describe it, for it requires a certain “slant” on life;
an attitude, or a “mind-set.” Paul is telling us something about how
we should relate ourselves to those who are close to us. He is talking
about our relationship to our family members, our relationship to the other
members of this parish, perhaps to co-workers and people who live in our
In on sense, Paul is cautioning us—as
he has done many times before—against the vice of pride. We are fooling
ourselves if we are trying to be Christians, while comparing ourselves to our
close neighbors. If we hold grudges, or act as though we were superior, or
if we try to provoke them to anger, or talk about them and hold them up to
contempt or ridicule, we will fall into the devil's trap.
“On the other side of the same
coin,” if you will, we are cautioned against envy. Just as it is foolish
for us to delude ourselves with false pride about how superior we are, it is
equally foolish to envy the characteristics or the possessions of our neighbors.
There really isn't much difference, for often when we envy someone, we are
really telling ourselves that they don't deserve their good fortune—that their
good fortune should have been ours, because we are really better than them
It doesn't take too much imagination to
see how a mixture of envy and pride could destroy the order in a society of
people—provoking hatred and theft, promoting quarrels and fights, destroying
the mutual cooperation so necessary to any society—be it a family, a parish, a
neighborhood, or whatever. And it certainly doesn't take much to see how
these vices could quickly put us at a distance from the graces of God.
St. Paul's remedy for this tendency to
envy and pride is the introspection of humility: “Let everyone prove his own
work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another.”
In other words, our striving should be to do the best we can, for its own sake.
Not to impress those around us. Not to try to possess more than they do.
Not to look more attractive than them. Not to determine how they could do
better than they do. But to try to do the very best we can with what God
A truly humble person doesn't grovel.
He knows what he can do, and what he can't ... his strengths and weaknesses ...
his limitations and his opportunities for excellence. And he knows that
all of these things come from God, and can only be judged in reference to God,
or at most, in terms of he makes use of them to draw closer to God.
So, “if we live in the Spirit, let us
also walk in the Spirit.” It is not enough to simply say, “Lord, Lord,
I believe.” We must also keep the Commandments, and peacefully and
productively with one another.
We must temper everything we do—every
relationship—with the virtue of humility—neither feeling that we are
superior to those around us, nor being envious of them.
Remember that, as St. Paul says, “God
is not mocked ... if man sows the seeds of discord and corruption, that is what
he will reap.”
Or, more positively, “If he sows the
seed of the spirit, the spirit will reap life everlasting.”